The Al Qaida network behind some of the deadliest insurgent attacks in Iraq is considering transferring its operations to other countries in the region, Iraq’s interior minister said yesterday.
The feared Al Qaida group headed by Iraq’s most wanted man Abu Musab Al Zarqawi “has started to consider leaving Iraq,” Bayan Baqer Sulagh told the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television.
He said a letter written to Al Zarqawi by his Al Qaida number two Abu Azzam, who US and Iraqi forces said they killed in an operation last month, underlined the network’s plans to move to neighbouring countries.
“I believe that after the Tal Afar strike, terrorism felt that it can no longer exist in Iraq,” the minister said, referring to a US-Iraqi offensive against rebels last month in the town between the main northern city of Mosul and the Syrian border.
“This is what we detected in a document Abu Azzam wrote to Al Zarqawi of which we have a copy. In the letter, Abu Azzam stressed the importance of moving and transferring the experience from Baghdad or Iraq to neighbouring countries.”
The group headed by Al Zarqawi, who has a $25 million (about Dh92 million) US bounty on his head, has claimed numerous deadly attacks, kidnappings and murders since the fall of Saddam Hussain’s regime in April 2003.
Iraqi officials announced that Abu Azzam was killed in a US-Iraqi raid on a house in Baghdad last week although Al Qaida has denied this.
Meanwhile, in a separate interview with Reuters in Amman, the Iraqi minister, said: “So you will see insurgencies in other countries.”
Sulagh is a , is a member of the Shiite Islamist SCIRI party, a key component of the Shiite-and Kurdish-led coalition government,
Hundreds of Islamist fighters had already left Iraq in recent months, Sulagh said, though security forces were also braced for a spike in car bomb attacks ahead of October 15’s referendum on a post-Saddam Hussain constitution.
Iraq’s leaders have urged fellow Arab governments, including Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, to do more to help.
Meanwhile, US troops again hunted Al Qaida militants near the Syrian border in western Iraq yesterday, the second day of “Operation Iron Fist”, after the US military said it had killed eight guerrillas on Saturday